Today is a long day, but another one to remember! We woke up, had breakfast, and went outside and immediately noticed that there was far less traffic, congestion and stress than pre-Shabbat. Jerusalem on Shabbat is a true gift... a break from the tension of the big city and the complications of living in the most holy city in the world. It is as if the city itself needs the Shabbat as much as the people who live in this complex city.
It was cold and beautiful this morning -- with bright sun and a cool breeze... a perfect Jerusalem winter day. We departed from the hostel by foot and made our way to the Old City. The golden walls of the Old City have a commanding presence; the walls tell the stories of generations of people -- Jews, non-Jews, foreign conquerers, families, religious people of all kinds -- who lived within those walls. As much as we, in America, hear about the problems and the difficulties of Jerusalem, the Old City is actually a fine example of co-existence that has been part of the history and tradition of this walled city. The Old City is divided into 4 contiguous quarters -- with no physical boundaries or barriers between the neighborhoods. The Armenian Quarter is actually the oldest of the quarters and is the most private. The Armenians prefer to live quietly on their own so their area of the Old City is not "open" in the same way as the other quarters are open. In addition to the Armenian Quarter, there is the Muslim Quarter (the largest of the 4), the Christian Quarter (a bit smaller than the Muslim Quarter) and the Jewish Quarter (the smallest of the 4).
Chen was our wonderful guide again today, and she took us through the famous Jaffa Gate. We did a little shopping just inside the gate and then walked to what is said to be King David's tomb. We saw some ruins from the First Temple period (from the 8th century before the Common Era!!!!!) and then proceeded to a wonderful rooftop where we saw a 360 degree view of Jerusalem and all of the neighboring areas. Then we walked to the Jewish Quarter. Because it was Shabbat, everything was closed in the Jewish Quarter, but we had the opportunity to see the "Cardo" -- which was the "Main Street" built by the Romans in every city in which they lived. Decorated with beautiful columns, the Cardo was like a boulevard or a promenade that ran down the center of the city and was flanked by little shops and markets.
While sitting in the Jewish Quarter and watching people go by, we played a game of "Guess Who." Chen put a sticker on a volunteer's forehead who then asked a bunch of yes/no questions about who the figure was. Lots of laughs!! Following that, we went together to the "Kotel," the Western Wall. The students had written notes to put into the wall and took them down to the Kotel with them. It was not terribly crowded which was great. I was on the women's side and I saw each of our students take some time to deliver her message and to stand in front of the Western Wall of Solomon's Temple -- all that is left of what history tells us was a large and magnificent building.
Just as we were leaving to meet the bus, it started to rain. We headed back to the Youth Hostel and had lunch and then did some packing. While everyone was enjoying the day, there was definitely a change in the air as we all realized that we were going to be leaving Israel to return home just hours later.
After packing everything for the flights, we took a walk to Nachlaot, a neighborhood in Jerusalem. The students had some time to "play" -- just hang out and enjoy one another's company and begin the conversation about how we were going to stay in touch. After the walk, we returned to the Hostel, loaded the bus, and ate dinner. We then began some closing rituals. We started with Havdalah -- the ceremony that marks the "separation" between the Shabbat and the rest of the week. This Havdalah really exemplified a "separation" of our own. The Havdalah symbols -- wine, spices and a twisted candle -- took on a new meaning as we thought about the separation that we were going to experience in just a short time. We shared some memories, some laughs and some tears and talked about the meaning of the HiBuR program in our lives. We boarded the bus for a night-time tour of the tunnels next to the Kotel (Western Wall) and when that was finished, we headed for the airport.
Theodore Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism (1860-1904), deeply believed in creating a contemporary Jewish State, to be established in the Land of Israel that would be a homeland to Jews of all types and for all time. Despite the frustrations, despite doing what seemed like an impossible feat, Herzl did not let go of his vision. He said: "Im tirtzu, ayn zo aggadah....If you will it, it is not a dream!" Herzl did not live to see the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. But he never gave up on his dream for the world community of Jews to have a modern state of their own. Moreover, he inspired many other Zionists to carry his vision forward by creating a beautiful, dynamic, living, colorful and vibrant place in which Jews and Judaism would be preserved and human values would be modeled.
If I had one message for our wonderful students -- those from Boston as well as those from Haifa -- it would be the lesson of Herzl. That is the lesson that we should never relinquish our dreams; that we should never give up on hope for a better tomorrow. Dreams come true through heart, soul, and hard work. Dreams come true when we learn to work together to accomplish our common goals and when we exchange ideas, values and hopes. Dreams come true when high school students from Boston and students from Haifa understand that they are connected through Judaism's enduring values and through our work in trying to improve the world.
Thank you for sharing your children with us...Nancy, Joe and I truly enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know them and traveling with them.
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson
"On our last day, we made it to the Old City of Jerusalem. We walked around the Jewish Quarter and also got to experience The Kotel (Western Wall) and saw King David's tomb. Later we walked through Jewish neighborhoods where we compared our lifestyles to theirs and talked about how we and our lifestyles have changed over the year. It has been an amazing trip and I cannot wait to be back."